When to Visit Thailand

Thailand is a year-round destination.  With a little forward-planning you can take in Thailand’s many different destinations at their best weather-wise. Thailand’s weather is typical of that of most of South East Asia’s countries.  It has three distinct seasons – the cool-dry season (November to February), the hot-dry season (March to May) and the hot-wet season (June to October).  It’s easy to get the wrong idea reading Thai weather forecasts. They almost always indicate “widespread thundershowers and isolated heavy rain” which just means typical, unstable, tropical conditions where it might rain heavily for a short time usually late afternoon or evening. It might also be sunny and hot for part/most of any given day but Thai weather forecasts never seem to mention that.

Bangkok’s heat and humidity can be tolerable at most times of the year thanks to the air-conditioned guesthouses, hotels, restaurants, taxis and shopping malls.  Starting your day early and visiting outdoor attractions, temples and markets can mean beating the heat in the hotter months but also beating the monsoon rains in the wetter months.  When the heat gets too much you can easily retreat to your room for a nap, spend a few hours shopping at one of the huge indoor malls or take a massage in an air-conditioned spa/studio.  Downpours in the hot-wet season often occur in bursts of and hour or so at roughly the same time each day.  If you’re in one destination for more than a few days you can plan your daily activities around this.  The monsoon rains have the advantage of cooling things down a little and clearing the sky of smog in Bangkok though if you’re at the beach they can make the water clarity and visibility a lot worse.
Due to altitude, Chiang Mai and the North of Thailand can be quite a bit cooler than the rest of the country in the cool-dry season.  This makes it a great time to get outdoors and take advantage of activities such as cycling, trekking and rafting.  The area is best avoided from late-February to March when temperatures climb and farmland is burnt off in the countryside creating a thick, hazy smog in the towns.
Write something about weather in the North-East.
Temperatures are steadier throughout the year in the South of Thailand thanks to it’s location close to the equator.  The biggest consideration when visiting the islands and beaches of the south should be when the monsoon season falls as this affects water quality.
The Andaman (Western) Coast of Thailand is at it’s best from November to February.  The dry season means that the waters are clearer and visibility is far greater for snorkelling and diving.  Picture perfect sea and sand and coinciding with Western Christmas/New Year vacation also make it the most attractive time to visit for many.   Unfortunately, during this peak-season, accommodation prices soar and availability becomes limited so it’s important to book ahead.  During the wet season from June to October prices are considerably lower which makes the more expensive destinations in this area such as Koh Phi Phi more attractive to some visitors.  Fewer tourists and greener landscapes are also bonuses of visiting in the off-peak season.  Transport to and accomodation on some of the smaller islands such as …… shut down in this season.  It’s advisable to check in advance.
The Southern Gulf of Thailand has the opposite monsoon season to the Andaman Coast meaning it’s at its best from June to September.  Visitor numbers are still high in the Western Christmas/New Year vacation period however water tends to be murkier and less settled making it a less attractive time to visit for swimming, snorkerlling and diving.
In the Eastern Gulf of Thailand – Pattaya, Koh Samet, Koh Chang, the weather is at it’s best from November to …..  However, Koh Samet remains the driest island in Thailand throughout the wet season.  Avoid the Eastern Gulf in June when it’s at it’s wettest.

Thai New Year (Songkran) is celebrated from 13 to 15 April every year and is accompanied with the tradition of throwing water.  Thai people drench each other (and tourists) with buckets, hoses and water guns, often from the backs of passing pick up trucks.  Water is also mixed with talcum powder and smeared on faces.  If you visit Thailand during this time, prepare to get wet.  If you want to join the festivities yourself put your valuables in a waterproof bag, grab a water gun and wish people a happy new year with the phrase “Sawasdee Pee Mai!”.  Don’t throw ice or dirty water and take care not to wet monks, babies or the elderly.

Chinese New Year is noticiably celebrated in Bangkok’s large Chinatown district and in Phuket with crowds of worshippers heading out to eat, set off fireworks and watch dragon dances.  The dates of this festival vary each year due to the lunar calendar but will next be celebrated on 3 February 2011.  It is also accompanied by sales in many of the large shopping malls.

Vegetarian Festival – Restaurants and street stalls go vegetarian for nine days displaying yellow flags on their storefronts and stalls.  Many of the dishes are transformed into meat-free versions of regular dishes uses tofu or gluten-based mock meats.  The festival is Chinese in origin so is noticably celebrarted in Bangkok’s Chinatown, Phuket, Krabi and Trang.  In Phuket the festival goes extreme with participants walking on hot coals and piercing the skin.  The dates of this festival vary each year due to the lunar calendar but is usaully late-September or early-October.

Rocket Fesitval
Elephant Festival
Naga lights thingy

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